May Do: Classroom Songwriting by Emily

Fearless Innovation–Songwriting for Our Lives: Inspiring Learners with Arts-Based Practices that Support Creativity

Article by James Cantor

  • songwriting can help students organize information about a topic and filter important facts from unimportant facts
  • any general education teacher can use a song they know for the foundation for lyrics that will support content, and the same applies to students
  • Process
    • Call and response without accompaniment “I am a Pizza” song
    • Performance of a few personally written songs
    • Steps for writing a parody song
      • Match the syllables
      • Match the rhyming pattern
      • Class creates rubric for songwriting
      • 20 minutes to choose a song and write one verse to perform for the class
      • Building trust for several weeks before moving on to bigger projects
      • Reflective journals
  • Call to action for scholarly research on arts-based education strategies in inner-city schools, taking into account student and teacher variables

Motivation and Deeper Learning in Elementary Art

Motivation and deeper learning are intrinsically linked to art education.  I consider myself lucky to teach a subject that I thoroughly enjoy, and that I know will have a positive impact on every single one of my students.  It may sound odd for an art teacher to say this, but it has never been my goal to teach and guide the next generation of great artists.  Instead, I try to make sure every single student leaves my class with these three understandings:

~ Hard work always pays off.   It may not happen right away, but in the long run, one will reap the rewards of maximum effort as long as he or she doesn’t abandon the “try”.

~ Every single person (including you!)  matters.  Everyone deserves respect and kindness.  Seeing and understanding each other’s differences makes learning a two-way street.  In my room, all voices are  heard and valued.

~ Art is a safe space.  Ask questions, express yourself, try new things, and be confident in one’s self.  The world would be very boring place if everyone followed along blindly.

All that being said, my classroom isn’t some “hippy-dippy” place where we all sing Kumbaya.  Nurturing and welcoming does not mean easy and/or unstructured.  In my class, I adhere to discipline-based art education, guided by SOL foundations and strategically cumulative curricula.  I am also conscientious of visual culture, because the world my students are growing up in has changed a great deal since I was their age.  Regardless of what subject one teaches; if it is not made relevant to students’ everyday lives, there is little to no likelihood that they will retain the concepts long-term.

It isn’t generally all that hard to get most students to be intrinsically motivated to succeed in art.  The motivations for striving to succeed in art can be extrinsic, e.g. people viewing/complimenting one’s talent, creativity, insight, skill, etc.  Undeniably, public acclaim and winning contests play a role in extrinsic motivational factors.  But those same things are also what drive many away from art, fearing that they will never be able to compete with an individual they perceive as “better” or “more talented”.  I have no problem with a little healthy competition and extrinsic motivation, but if the majority of your students’ motivation is not intrinsic, than the point of education (in any subject) is missed. 

Most individuals find a greater reward in self-fulfillment e.g. mastering a skill, pride from one’s creation, and good old-fashioned hard work. In and of itself, the process of creating art is fun, so regardless of the finished product, it is an enjoyable experience.  When a student’s motivation is intrinsic, deeper learning occurs much more naturally.  I think of my syllabus as an exercise in educational synergy.  Connections with core subjects and everyday visual culture are seamlessly part of our daily activities.  For this reason students leave my class knowing that what they learned is applicable to far more than just making something “pretty” or “cool” looking.   

Instilling intrinsic motivation and cultivating deeper learning takes profound dedication, self-reflection, and unwavering commitment to both one’s students and profession.

Motivation and Deeper Learning by Emily

  • What building blocks resonate with you after exploring the concepts of Motivation and Deeper Learning?  
  • How can you apply this new learning to your specialty area and daily teaching practices?
    • Recorder:
      • Deeper Learning: Asking questions about what it is possible to play, what other songs can we play, what other sounds can we make, why do we use these holes, can we give performances in small groups?
      • Performance Assessments: Belt Tests are individual/small group performances during which I support learning by providing real-time feedback to model the thought process for effective practice and problem solving.
    • Assembly Preparation:
      • Deeper Learning: Asking questions about the performance, when will we get to sing for the school, what are we going to sing this year, can we add this song to our performance, can we add this dance move to our performance?
      • Performance Assessments: Practice solos/small group performances, are opportunities for students to sing one at a time or with a partner for a captive audience, and an opportunity for me to provide direct feedback and assess progress, as well as seeking the next levels of musicianship like showing expression and phrasing with dynamics and inflection.
      • PBL/Student Agency: Preparing for every musical performance is a PBL, in that the students are working to solve a real world problem, and present the result of their work to the school community. I want to involve more student voice in upcoming performances so that they can take more agency in the project of preparing for an assembly.
      • Safe and Supportive Learning Environment: Performing in front of classmates is a big part of what we do to prepare for assemblies, so that students have an opportunity to feel the adrenaline that comes with performance. All students are trained in being a good audience member by being supportive of the efforts of their classmates, and celebrating bravery for trying, rather than celebrating musical talent. Even at the 1st grade level, students are given vocabulary to use when individuals are singing solos for the class, and encouraged to support each contribution made by a peer.
    • 2nd Grade Musical Composition:
      • PBL: Students will be engaging with the real world challenge of creating music, and writing music about a topic that is important to them. They’ll need rhythm and melody skills, and they will complete the project by performing their works for a community event. This will be more meaningful than me teaching them a musical that has already been written, and they will have something they can be proud of and take with them the rest of their lives. It will also be a chance for them to learn that song writing is an option for them as individuals in their spare time, as a way for them to express their feelings about important events in their lives.
      • Technology Enabled: Students will be using technology to communicate about their project, as well as using music apps to create music for the project itself.
  • In what ways can you build the 5Cs in your delivery of instruction?
    • Communication
      • Students communicate their thoughts about the material, and I use line of questioning to help students discovery the information at hand.
    • Creation
      • Students use creation to adapt the material from the lesson into something uniquely their own, which looks different in each lesson.
    • Critical Thinking
      • Students use critical skills during music class to explore other ways of presenting the music or performing the music, and they use critical skills to create new experience opportunities.
    • Collaboration
      • Students collaborate on performances by creating movements for songs, voting for favorite moves to create a combination of things that many individuals were involved with.
      • They use collaboration when playing recorder to help each other assess their own playing, question how they might do it even better, and improve each other’s practice approach leading to a better informed performance.
    • Contribution
      • I allow flexibility in the lesson plan to take student questions and allow us to go onto a related musical tangent, because exploring questions that come to mind in relation to the topic (even if they aren’t directly on topic) will help the students foster a relationship with the material.
      • We also honor individual contributions in terms of the whole performance when preparing music as an ensemble.

Specialist Blog–Deep Learning

What building blocks resonate with you after exploring the concepts of Motivation and Deeper Learning?  

I really liked seeing the emphasis on collaboration in all of the examples in the video, especially the vehicle building and the puppet creation. Collaboration is a building block that I have been making an active effort to include more in my lesson design because it creates engagement in students, is motivating, and is a key life skill.

How can you apply this new learning to your specialty area and daily teaching practices? In what ways can you build the 5Cs in your delivery of instruction?

I think the first teacher said it best: “If everybody’s engaged, then everybody is learning as much as possible.” When my lesson design encourages collaboration and critical thinking, it is both supporting student learning and helping students learn to (and want to) direct their own learning.

In the library, my end goal is always to make myself (mostly) unnecessary to students. I want them to be able to navigate the physical and virtual collection independently, to want to read the collection for personal and academic interests, to be able to choose appropriate texts for themselves, and to know how to conduct research independently (ask questions, search for information, find answers and share their learning with others).

By designing activities that are high-interest for my students (for example, an online resources scavenger hunt they complete with a partner that includes them researching a question they want to know the answer to), I am making the standards personally relevant to them and asking them to learn how to navigate the sometimes complicated give-and-take that comes with working with someone else. Every time we do an activity like that, collaboration comes a bit more naturally and they can learn to recognize the value of working as a team. They are also more likely to remember the research skills they practiced because they used them to do a task that was meaningful to them.


Building Intrinsic Motivation in P.E. Reflection by Emily

Lori’s action plan to increase intrinsic motivation in her students is going to be focused on Sportsmanship. She wants to help students create and strengthen relationships with each other, such that it is personally rewarding for each student to engage in sportsmanship behaviors. She will create opportunities for students to ask the questions:

How can we help our teammates?

How can we feel success without worrying about being “the best” or “the winner?”

How do positive comments from our peers give us intrinsic reward?

When students attend P.E., some probably feel intrinsic challenge for the game being played which makes them want to do their best, but sometimes that can be wrapped up in extrinsic motivation for being the best in the class, or winning the game. In order for students to shift to intrinsic motivation during P.E. class, Lori does not keep score. She emphasizes teamwork and encouraging others so that everyone can play the game to the best of their own ability as players and team members. Students who play competitive sports outside of school or who have competitive role models outside of school, may have a hard time shifting their focus to the intrinsic motivator of playing the game, and her goal this year is to seek students in need of support for learning about their intrinsic motivation for the game, and provide them with positive thought pattern models to help them achieve that point of view on their own.